U.S. Senator Arlen Specter and his challenger in the May Democratic Primary Congressman Joe Sestak continue to argue over the money Sestak pays his campaign workers.
Specter continues insists the salaries Sestak pays his campaign staff violate minimum wage laws.
According to data provided to the Federal Election Commission, ten of Sestak’s staffers would make below the $7.25 minimum wage, if you assumed a 40 hour work-week.
Specter says Sestak is violating the law, and has an obligation to increase his staffers’ pay.
"I am calling it to the attention of the voters. There’s a question here as to whether someone who doesn’t comply with the law it fit to make the laws. And to abuse employees raises question of character, as to whether somebody should be promoted to the United States Senate."
A look at legal guidelines suggests Sestak is in compliance with state laws but could be violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry spokesman Troy Thompson says the Specter team’s math isn’t entirely correct.
"You cannot calculate the minimum wage that way. It’s based on the number of hours worked within a specific week. If I work ten hours a week, and I do that for four weeks, you cannot assume I am working a forty hour workweek."
Thompson says salaried employees, that is, people who make a set non-hourly wage, are exempt from the statute. The Sestak campaign says that’s the case with its employees.
Federal minimum wage laws also include a salary exemption, but generally require employees to make at least 455 dollars a week.
The FEC data shows 11 Sestak employees earned below that level in late 2009.
The federal law applies to companies that conduct interstate commerce. It’s unclear whether a Senate campaign falls into that category.
Sestak has praised his staffers for making a financial sacrifice to work for the campaign, and argues Specter is making this attack to distract voters, calling it “dishonest negativity.”